Under the influence: Pacific Breeze Winery Tour and Tasting

IMG_0126Last year I took a chance on a one of those group coupon deals for a wine tasting in New Westminster, BC so I could take my Mom out and have some fun. (We have previously had great fun at Vancouver’s amazing and wonderful HOPSCOTCH Festival!)  And several weeks ago for Mothers’s Day we finally went.

I had my doubts, and so did my Mom, about an urban winery in New Westminster:  there are no vineyards in Metro Vancouver; one must drive a few hours or take a ferry to get near the prime wine country; and both of us had spent a great deal of time in New West and didn’t think it very likely that we would have not noticed a large winery in the area.  But why not go and see what it is about and taste some wine.

Some high quality, delicious, remarkable wine.

I am not a connoisseur of wine by any means. I have a glass maybe once a month. But I do like to to read: to read about how things are made and to read about history. And wine is one of those things that comes up a lot in history. (Hungary’s famous Tokaj (Tokay) wine was used as an overture to create and keep allies: Louis the XIV was given Tokaj wine by the new Prine of a newly independent Hungary in 1686 in order to gain his alliance. He adored it and served it at the French court dubbing it “Vinum Regnum – Rex Vinorum” -the king of wines and the wine of kings; and Emperor Franz Josef sent Queen Victoria one bottle for every month she lived.  And once when I was a history major in university I had one of those 3 o’clock in the morning epiphanies that most of the major decisions by the major player in history were made under the influence of alcohol, and often lots of it.  But I digress.

The location is, well, unexpected. Kind of an old industrial mall down by the train tracks with only a couple of other occupants. But when I walked in the door it was a beautiful room with a  wooden bar. The tour at Pacific Breeze began in that first room, the main tasting room where we were poured a generous taste of their 2011 Sauvignon Blanc.  Yummy! Unoaked, very fresh, fruity, and dry – a great summer wine.   This is not the wine you would associate with a “garage winery.” Then we were taken into the wine making room – which has 5 huge tanks where the wine ferments, the grape “squish-er,” a “de-skinner”  and a small bottling machine. The guide was one of the winemakers and he gave us some information and really welcomed our questions.The best guides are passionate and knowledgeable and he was both. He let us know that their “garage winery” was the product of two home winemakers with 40 years of experience between them and we constantly being asked if their wine was for sale.  He also let us know the origin of the name Pacific Breeze , as all the grapes are sourced from up and down the pacific coast – California, Oregon, Washington , and this year BC. They choose the best regions, and valleys for each varietal they make and they are small so they can order  small amount of the best they can find.  A little bit of many varieties and whatever seems like it had good growing year.   We then tried the Chardonnay which was complex and earthy, but as I’m not a fan of oaked white wine I can’t rave about it. It was complex and high quality but not my thing.

Then we we invited into the cask room – it was the room that I always think of when someone says winery – with about 100  French and American casks stacked  around the edges of the room.

Pacific Breeze Winery

There was a table set in the centre with chairs for each of us and plates of a variety of high quality cheese and a little meat and crackers for each couple of tasters. Sadly have allergies to dairy, and the crackers were filled with sesame – one of my life threatening allergies. But there was wine so I couldn’t feel too bad for myself. The next wine was their signature Killer Cab, which was impressive. It’s a blend, and to me a good blend it a sign of great skill in wine making – blending just the right wines in the right quantities to get and outstanding result. It was dry and had the great mouth puckering and watering deliciousness that a cab should have.  Then we tried AssaZin. Which is a red Zinfandel. This is not the light white less than 10 dollar Zinfandel I associate with being 19 and having a gossipy night in with my girlfriends.  This is a powerful, deep purple,  mouth puckering  punch to the taste buds. The fruit is less prominent but is in a lovely harmony with the oak. This is a strong bold red but  isn’t heavy or over powering. Personally I like fruity wines and don’t usually go for heavier reds but this was definitely something I would order a glass of.  The next, and final bottle that was opened for us was a 2010 Cabernet Franc. Which was my absolute favourite of the day. It was very bold but the fruit was still in the starring role. It was an incredible wine. So delicious.  With the last three reds, each one was better than the last. But at our end of the table each one was a wow wine. I wouldn’t hesitate to order any of them at a restaurant or buy a bottle as a gift, or to share with friends.

At the tasting table we were invited to ask questions  – I asked quite a few, as is my my way – And we were guided through more intricacies of the wind making process, casking, tasting, filtering etc. And a couple of answers I think are important to share here: Pacific Breeze is not sold by BC liquor stores only private wine stores and at the winery itself, because as a small producer it would take almost 3/4 of what they produce  each year just to give them a small spot on the shelf; and the produce vegan wines- they do not use animal products  in the filtering stage which apparently is common practice and hard to to research or detect what wines use what processes for filtering. So if you are vegan Pacific Breeze is a good choice.

At the end of the tasting, when each of us was warm and our judgement a little impaired, we we invited back to the tasting room to buy any of the wines that were on offer. 🙂

All the wines are corked and will last and age well.

I bought a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc as it is summer time and I’m sure it will delicious to share on a balcony with friends on a summer evening.   And it was one of my two favourites of the tasting.

I was hesitating though because I really did like the Cabernet Franc but in the end my thrifty-ness won out. And I bought the cheaper bottle. And because we were at a tasting got a small discount 🙂    Though all the wines we had tasted were very reasonably priced in the 19.99 to 29.99 range. But a day or two later I was kicking myself and thinking that I really should have bought a bottle of the red instead. But I was stuck with an awesome white -such a terrible first world problem.  I did though write a quick note to the people at the winery thanking them for the great tasting and tour and answering so many of my questions. And I couldn’t help but ask if they still had a few bottles of the Franc around – and they did so – and they were kind enough to put one aside for me to pick up the next weekend and they gave me the tasting discount as well! They were lovely to me – which is so important!

I have good memories of a nice Sunday afternoon tasting with my Mom and I have two bottles laying in my cupboard just waiting for the right occasion.

So if you are nearby Pacific Breeze stop by for a quick taste, and if you see the group coupon – get it and go !




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